From Nazi Germany to Istanbul University

“Although the situation seemed to be hopelessly in spring 1933, due to the existence and the congregation of the Emergency Assistance Association for German Scientists, the working opportunities in Turkey, the success of the scientists and the established connections, there was a positive feeling of revolution. […] I and my friends knew that we adopted […]

“Although the situation seemed to be hopelessly in spring 1933, due to the existence and the congregation of the Emergency Assistance Association for Scientists, the working opportunities in Turkey, the success of the scientists and the established connections, there was a positive feeling of revolution. […] I and my friends knew that we adopted an important mission at the same time: to represent the real spirit and culture. The burdens of this mission gave us not only the feeling of pride but also security.”[1]

The Jewish Professor Philipp Schwartz started with these words his book about his memoirs in after his escape from the Nazi Germany depicting the feelings of the persecuted German academics. The need of academic support of the newly established Turkish Republic of that time rescued numerous Jewish and opposing professors from the Nazi persecution.

 

Philipp Schwartz
Philipp Schwartz

 

As 1923 the Turkish Republic was proclaimed, the country stepped in a time period of state organized reforms with the purpose to diminish the traces and modify the state according to the European modernity. This approach was also applied to the higher education. Financially dependent on the state, at the outset, darülfünun known today as the could keep its autonomy. However, both the absence of appropriate scientific work and the unwillingness of the university to support the state reforms led to the official closing of darülfünun and to the foundation of the in 1933.[2] The idea to appoint not only young Turkish intellectuals disposed for reforming but also European scholars caused the engagement of the Swiss professor of education Albert Malche by the government who should later adopt the intermediary role between German professors and the Turkish state.[3]

 

Einstein's Letter to Atatürk
Einstein’s Letter to Atatürk

 

Meanwhile, Germany started the year 1933 with the coming into power of the Nazi regime. In February the Reichstag Fire Decree was passed as the first attack against human rights followed by the Enabling Act which suppressed the fundamentals of the democracy. Moreover, in April non-Aryans were outlawed from the civil service.[4] After all, with the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 the omnipresent policy of racism became legally fixed by the Nazi dictatorship.[5]

Racial discrimination and politically persecution strained the life of numerous Jewish and politically opposing scholars in German universities why the Jewish Dr. Philipp Schwartz escaped from Germany and founded the Emergency Assistance Association for German Scientists in Zurich short after the Nazi takeover. Together with Albert Malche, Schwartz convinced the Turkish government to appoint the persecuted German professors for the free positions in the higher education.[6] Finally, contracts up until five years were signed.[7] Over time around 150 academics immigrated to Turkey while most of them were from the economic, finance, law or medical fields. Social sciences played a less important role.[8]

 

Freundlich, Gleissberg and Aslan Tufan (Reporter of the Turkish Magazine Yedigün)
Freundlich, Gleissberg and Aslan Tufan (Reporter of the Turkish Magazine Yedigün)

 

The re-establishment of the university in the old Ottoman war ministry and its surrounding area in Beyazıt went along with the attempts to enlarge the teaching and learning content.[9] The initial phase of the lessons was affected by several obstacles like the resistance of the old academics to the reforms. Another obstacle was the lack of space and material for teaching especially in the medicine department. For example, Professor Schwartz talks about a limited number of microscopes which had to be used rotatory in different institutes.[10] However, the major barrier seemed to be the language. Included in the contracts, the Turkish government expected from the emigrants to teach and publish first with the help of translators but within five years also in the Turkish.[11] Besides lack of appropriate translators and mistranslations, the professors had troubles to learn the Turkish language due to its unfamiliar structure in comparison to European languages. The economist Fritz Neumark tells about his first attempts to speak Turkish with these words: “Because during the four-day journey I could not learn to say ‘teşekkür ederim’, in other words I was not able to memorize these words; I felt a deep despair that I still can remember”.[12]

 

Fritz Neumark and His Turkish Assistant
Fritz Neumark and His Turkish Assistant

 

Nevertheless, the cooperation yielded fruit at both sides. On the one hand despite troubles, after a few years numerous professors could continue their academic output in Turkish. On the other hand they were also able to start scientific work which later would contribute to their career like the economist Wilhelm Röpke and his works “Civitas Humana” or “International Order”.[13]

Some emigrants stayed just view years in Istanbul, some turned back after the Second World War and other lived until the death in Turkey but their imprint in the Turkish cultural and scientific life is undeniable. Just to mention a few names, the sociologist and economists Gerard Kessler taught numerous students, who established influential labour unions in Turkey. Walter Gottschalk an expert of librarianship shaped the Istanbul University library and taught later Library Sciences. Andreas Schwartz and Richard Hönig trained the first members of the Turkish jurisprudence in the republic.[14] Furthermore the university provided public lectures Istanbul and so called “university weeks” in Anatolian towns and villages for the propagation of scientific knowledge and the reforms.[15] The success of these offers was visible by the popularity of surgeon Rudolf Nissen. Some families in Anatolia named their children after him.[16] Finally they also occupied important academic positions in Ankara, introduced there Turkey´s next academic centre and influenced the government. The most famous example is the architect Clemens Holzmeister who led the construction of significant state buildings like the Grand National Assembly.[17]

 

Social Solidarity in Exile; İzmir Trip of German Settlers in İstanbul
Social Solidarity in Exile; İzmir Trip of German Settlers in İstanbul

 

Overall it was a fruitful cooperation. The state found an initial medium to build up the Istanbul University and spread their ideology and teaching according to the European modernity. The emigrated professors could not only escape the Nazi pressure but also continued their scientific work. Fritz Neumark ends his book about his memoirs in the Turkish exile with these words:

 

First of all while I am finishing the telling of my experiences in a country that was at first alien but later become more and more our second homeland I thank deeply and sincerely the Turkish Republic, that not only housed us but also offered us appropriate working conditions as the country that we were born threatened the lives of our children.[18]

 


[1] Philipp Schwartz, Kader Birliği: 1933 Sonrası Türkiye´ye Göç Eden Alman Bilim Adamları (Istanbul: Belge Yayınları,2003), p: 33
[2] Ilhan Basgöz & Howard E. Wilson, Educational Problems in Turkey 1920-1940; Indiana University, Bloomington: 1968, p: 161-166
[3] Fritz Neumark, Boğaziçi´ne Sığınanlar, Türkiye´ye Iltica Eden Alman Bilim, Siyaset ve Sanat Adamları 1933-1953; Neden Kitap Yayıncılık, Istanbul: 2008, p: 15-19
[4] Richar J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich; Penguin Books, London:2004, p: 331-437
[5] Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wippermann, The Racial State, Germany 1933-1945; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 1991, p: 45-50
[6] Stanford J. Shaw, Turkey and the Holocaust; The Macmillan Press LTD: 1993, p: 4-5
[7] Philipp Schwartz, Kader Birliği, 1933 Sonrası Türkiye´ye Göç Eden Alman Bilim Adamları, Belge Yayınları Istanbul 2003, p: 20
[8] Philipp Schwartz, Kader Birliği, 1933 Sonrası Türkiye´ye Göç Eden Alman Bilim Adamları, Belge Yayınları Istanbul 2003, p: 15-16
[9] Philipp Schwartz, Kader Birliği, 1933 Sonrası Türkiye´ye Göç Eden Alman Bilim Adamları, Belge Yayınları Istanbul 2003, p: 49-50
[10] Philipp Schwartz, Kader Birliği, 1933 Sonrası Türkiye´ye Göç Eden Alman Bilim Adamları, Belge Yayınları Istanbul 2003, p: 83-84
[11] Philipp Schwartz, Kader Birliği, 1933 Sonrası Türkiye´ye Göç Eden Alman Bilim Adamları, Belge Yayınları Istanbul 2003, p: 20
[12] Fritz Neumark, Boğaziçi´ne Sığınanlar, Türkiye´ye Iltica Eden Alman Bilim, Siyaset ve Sanat Adamları 1933-1953; Neden Kitap Yayıncılık, Istanbul: 2008, p: 130-136
[13] Fritz Neumark, Boğaziçi´ne Sığınanlar, Türkiye´ye Iltica Eden Alman Bilim, Siyaset ve Sanat Adamları 1933-1953; Neden Kitap Yayıncılık, Istanbul: 2008, p: 75-76
[14] Stanford J. Shaw, Turkey and the Holocaust; The Macmillan Press LTD: 1993, p: 6
[15] Fritz Neumark, Boğaziçi´ne Sığınanlar, Türkiye´ye Iltica Eden Alman Bilim, Siyaset ve Sanat Adamları 1933-1953; Neden Kitap Yayıncılık, Istanbul: 2008, p: 232-233
[16] Fritz Neumark, Boğaziçi´ne Sığınanlar, Türkiye´ye Iltica Eden Alman Bilim, Siyaset ve Sanat Adamları 1933-1953; Neden Kitap Yayıncılık, Istanbul: 2008, p: 99
[17] Stanford J. Shaw, Turkey and the Holocaust; The Macmillan Press LTD: 1993, p: 7
[18] Fritz Neumark, Boğaziçi´ne Sığınanlar, Türkiye´ye Iltica Eden Alman Bilim, Siyaset ve Sanat Adamları 1933-1953; Neden Kitap Yayıncılık, Istanbul: 2008, p: 257


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